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Your Guide to Taking a Skaftafell Hike

With incredible landscapes, such as Iceland has to offer, it’s no surprise that a favorite pastime amongst locals and visitors alike is hiking. And when considering all the national parks we have here on the island, taking a Skaftafell hike is certainly one of the more popular options.

So, if you’ve got an upcoming trip to Iceland and would like to add a hike or two to your itinerary, read on. We tell you everything you need to know about Skaftafell hikes.

Skaftafell Hike

Why Skaftafell is Ideal for Hiking

Except for the variety of trails ranging in difficulty and skill level, and the incredible landscape and landmarks one can see on these hikes, Skaftafell also has incredible amenities in place to make your hiking adventure as easy and convenient as possible. There is a Skaftafell Visitor Centre where you can learn more about the area, and ask any questions you have about the area – from recreational options to the park’s natural wonders.

You will also find a souvenir shop at the center. There is a campsite at Skaftafell which means that you don’t need to drive after trails. Simply set up a home base and get up each morning for a new Skaftafell hiking adventure.

Our rangers do much more than just look out for the fauna and flora, they also run educational programs during the summertime to create awareness and educate others about the surroundings. And these guys are always more than willing to have a chat or assist whenever you come across them, irrespective of season.

When is the Best Time to Go on Your Skaftafell Hike?

Either during the Iceland summer from June to September. Or, during the warmer shoulder months such as May or October to sidestep the peak season prices.

Most of the time, you will be able to go camping with a campervan and do some Skaftafell hiking on certain trails irrespective of the season. But, as an outdoor activity, the seasons and the weather will inevitably have an impact. During the wintertime, and even sometime into spring, you will need to deal with ice and snow.

You also have much fewer daylight hours compared to the 22+ hours mid-summer. This, along with certain trail closures, are the reasons why most prefer visiting during the warmer months of the year.

Skaftafell Hiking routes

The Best Skaftafell Hikes

Below are all the most popular hiking trails you can choose from for your Skaftafell hike:

The S1 Trail

Distance: 4.1 Kilometers, back and forth

Duration: Between 1-1.5 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Easy

This is also known as the Glacier Trail. The entire hike essentially takes you through a receding glacier and the effects such an event has on the environment. Along the way, you will see things such as kettle holes and glacier gardens, and what’s more helpful is that numbered markers give you an electronic interpretation of specific highlights on the route.

And all this leads right up to the receding guilty party: Skaftafellsjökull Glacier. The first half of the trail is paved with the last half being a well-maintained gravel path.

S1 Trail Skaftafell

The S2 Trail

Distance: 5.8 Kilometers (in a loop)

Duration: +/- 2 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Easy

If you want to go on a bit of a waterfall-watching adventure, this is the trail for you. This route will take you through a forest, and past Hundafoss Waterfall and Magnusarfoss Waterfall till you reach one of our most famous waterfalls in Iceland; Svartifoss Waterfall. This is also why the trail is often referred to as the Svartifoss Trail.

This trail is interesting in the sense that the trail mostly consists of compact soil or mats. But the path is well-maintained and even wide enough for 2 or 3 people to walk alongside each other. The trail does have a few platforms and steps to navigate, but it’s really not very challenging. It’s just worth noting for those with weak knees.

The S2 Trail Skaftafell

The S3 Trail

Distance: 16.6 Kilometers (in a loop)

Duration: 5-6 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Challenging

This trail gives you a taste of the different landscapes and terrains one can find here in Skaftafell. You will hike through a forest, scale mountainsides, cross rivers, and get up close to glaciers. Just take note that this trail can get pretty wet and muddy during springtime and is often closed till mid-June, so double-check beforehand whether the trail is currently open or not.

S3 Trail - Skaftafell

The S4 Trail

Distance: 18 Kilometers (in a loop)

Duration: 6-8 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Difficult

This Skaftafell hike is not for the faint of heart, and you’ll need to be fit with proper hiking experience underneath your belt. This trail leads you all the way to Krisinartinda which gives you breathtaking views over the southernmost part of Vatnajökull, the mountains of Oræfi, and the Skeidararsandur Beach.

The trail requires extreme skill, especially when it comes to crossing rivers, clambering up steep rocky inclines, and walking along ridges. This is also another Skaftafell hiking trail that tends to close during the springtime due to wet and muddy conditions.

S4 Trail skaftafell

The S5 Trail

Distance: 6.5 Kilometers (in a loop)

Duration: 2-2.5 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Challenging

The highlights of this trail include Kristinartindar, Hrutfjallstindar, Oræfajökull, and Skaftafellsjökull. This trail is also very popular with bird watchers during the spring and summertime because of its abundance and wide variety of birdlife.

The S5 Trail

The S6 Trail

Distance: 7.1 Kilometers (in a loop)

Duration: 2.5-3 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Challenging

This trail essentially combines a bit of the S2 and the S5 hikes together. That’s why this extended hike will allow you to see Kristinartindar, Hrutfjallstindar, Oræfajökull, and Skaftafellsjökull, as well as the magnificent Svartifoss Waterfall. And it’s also a favorite amongst the birdwatchers.

Kristinartindar views

The S7 Trail

Distance: 1.6 Kilometers (in a loop)

Duration: 30 minutes to an hour, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Easy

This is another fun trail to do if you want to learn more about the area. The fact that this Skaftafell hike is fairly short and very easy, it’s the ideal trail to take on as a family with younger kids or pensioners in your party. Five numbered markers give you an electronic interpretation of the area, educating you on all things from volcanic eruptions and glacial rivers to what it was like living in Oræfi.

The S7 Trail hike

The M1 Trail

Distance: 15.3 Kilometers (in a semi-loop)

Duration: 4-5 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Easy

This is an exceptional trail and another favorite amongst families with larger kids. This trail takes you to the infamous Bæjarstadarskogur, which is the tallest Birch Tree forest in Iceland. On your way there you will cross a valley, walk past the ravines at Bæjarstadur, and much, much more. Definitely a Skaftafell hike not to be missed.

Just take note that mobile connection is completely unpredictable on this trail, and therefore it is highly recommended that you never take this trail on alone. You also need to keep a close eye on the Icelandic weather forecast before heading out, since the streams on this trail can suddenly turn into raging rivers whenever it rains or the winter ice and snow are still melting away. You do not want to end up being stuck or stranded.

M1 Trail skaftafell

The M2 Trail

Distance: 19.5 Kilometers (in a semi-loop)

Duration: 6-7 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Challenging

This trail will lead you to the famous Morsarjökull Glacier. It’s common for hikers to actually hear the pieces of ice falling from the glacier and the surrounding cliffs during their hike in the summer season. This trail will take you along a glacial lake, alongside a river, and even has a couple of incredibly cute footbridges.

Morsarjokull glacier hike

The M3 Trail

Distance: 30 Kilometers (in a semi-loop)

Duration: 8-10 hours, depending on pace

Difficulty Level: Challenging

This is an absolute beast of a Skaftafell hike in both distance and skill. During this trail, you will get the opportunity to hike through a colorful glacier valley that’s surrounded by 1000-meter high mountains, making for spectacular views.

The M3 Trail

What to Pack When You Go on the Skaftafell Hiking Trails

The following are a few essentials that you can’t leave behind when you go on your Skaftafell hike:

  • Hat & Sunscreen (This is often forgotten when it doesn’t feel so hot or is overcast, but you’re going to end up with a nasty sunburn if you don’t lather up beforehand).

  • Waterbottle (with water, of course).

  • Snacks (You should always have some snacks like trail mix, power bars, etc. with you on your hike. This is not just so you have something to munch on and keep your strength up along the way, but also to ensure that you have something to eat in case anything goes wrong and you need to wait for a rescue team).

Taking a Skaftafell Hike is a Must for Any Avid Hiker

As you can see, Skaftafell hiking offers a wide range of experiences. From traversing different landscapes and terrains to visiting some of Iceland’s most famous landmarks, and admiring the views – Skaftafell has it all. The best part is that you don’t need to be the fittest or the most experienced hiker to be able to enjoy hiking in Skaftafell.

You will ding a wide array of trails for all ages and skill levels. So, whether you’re a couple, a group of friends, or a family traveling through the country, be sure to rent a campervan in Iceland, secure your spot at the Skaftafell Campground, and start your hiking adventure by using our article as a guide.



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